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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday August 15 2005

imageOn Saturday evening, during the early stages of a party at Perry de Havilland’s, I watched the DVD of the movie Blowing Smoke.

I often take a nap in the early evening, and I did early that evening, about fifteen minutes into watching Blowing Smoke.  This is not a reflection on Blowing Smoke.  I had already had a bit to drink, but even when sober I have slept during tumultuously loud and exciting performances of all kinds, especially recorded ones, to the point where a performance is almost like a Pavlovian trigger to send me to sleep.  For instance I once went to sleep at a live performance of Carl Nielsen’s Symphony Number Four, the “Inextinguishable”, given by Simon Rattle and the CBSO in the Barbican.  Inextinguishable indeed, yet sleep extinguished many minutes of it for me.  Last night, I slept during some of Mahler’s cacophonous First Symphony, which was on the television.

So anyway, I did miss about five or ten minutes of Blowing Smoke, towards the beginning.  Which I regret, because before I dozed off I really liked it, but liked the stuff at the end rather less.  Normally I probably wouldn’t write about a movie during which I had dozed off.  But …

I am completely biased in favour of this movie.  I want it to be a brilliant success, which means that now, now that the sales campaign is getting into gear, I want to write about it and thus do my bit to persuade others to write about it.  One of my best friends (the party was to celebrate her birthday) is helping the producer of Blowing Smoke to sell it, and I really want her, and him, to succeed, big time.

Also, quite separate from the quality of the movie itself is the extreme interestingness of the means by which the producer,egged on by my friend, has chosen to distribute his movie, using a blog, elling it as a DVD direct from this blog, or with a download, both very competitively priced.  The blog, by the way, was designed by another friend of mine, and it’s one of his prettiest creations, I think.  So, you may depend on me to do all that I honestly can to sell this movie to you.

So, how can I do this?  Put it like this.  I have extremely bizarre – not to say unmanly – tastes in movies, not like yours at all probably, and although I admired Blowing Smoke in all kinds of incidental ways, I can’t say I really liked it.

At the Blowing Smoke blog, Jim Treacher says that he never watches movies with the word Wedding in the title.  Now me, I always do.  For instance I am greatly looking forward to watching The Wedding Date, starring Debra Messing of Will & Grace fame.  It was a black day for me, as for millions of other girls of both gender, when Meg Ryan had her lips filled with lard and switched to doing dark and meaningful movies that really say something with blood and misery and people trying to win Oscars.

Although I didn’t ultimately like it, Blowing Smoke has many qualities that I do like in a movie.  The characters in it, all very convincingly acted, have conversations which are only sometimes incoherent and dominated by swearing.  There is not much violence.  I only counted two gunshots, which did damage only to scenery.  The characters have ideas, often interesting ones, which they express, sometimes quite eloquently.  But there was no character in it that I really liked, and there was no happy romantic denouement.

In addition to being too pessimistic and nasty and gender-hostile for my banal and mainstream Hollywoodish tastes, I also found Blowing Smoke a bit too stagey and contrived.  The way I heard myself putting it on the night, and liked the sound of, was to say that in the best works of art, things happen that come as a surprise to their creators.  The material takes on a life of its own.  I got the opposite feeling with this piece.  The guy had worked the whole thing out with a big chart, and all the characters duly worked their way through all the things the chart said.  They were puppets.

On the whole (subject to sleep interruptions) I found the stuff at the start where the characters were established, to be more entertaining than when they started to do things, or to be more exact, when they started to have things done to them, by the Estella Warren character.  I also knew rather too many of the sexist jokes that they cracked, or at least I felt as if I did.  Some I laughed at.  But some struck me as leaden and unoriginal, like they’d been got from the internet.  That may have been the idea.  Maybe these men said quite boring things which they had got from the internet, to establish that they were boring.  But I found this boringness rather boring, much as I find the comedy of embarrassment embarrassing (Fawlty Towers, Ricky Gervais, etc.).  I am absolutely not against sexist jokes.  But I like sexist jokes to be really funny.

But all of that is probably just a way of saying that this is, reprise, not my kind of movie.  When you basically don’t care for something, you are much more aware of its outer nature, method of construction, etc., than if you like it.  If you like it, you get involved.  You feel the flesh and blood of it instead of merely observing it and spending your time working out what the skeleton consists of.  You get involved in the story, instead of sitting there working out the plot before it happens, the way you do when your soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend forces you to sit through one her damned date movies of the sort that I like.

If misogyny and political incorrectness and swearing and male-female discord is your thing, the way soppy romantic comedies are my thing, you will want to check this out, the way I want to check out The Wedding Date.  I want to check out The Wedding Date even if it turns out to be dross so soppy and sentimental that even my girlish stomach is turned.  And since misogyny and political incorrectness and swearing and male-female discord are not usually things you get in well acted, well photographed, well directed movies which you can rent at Blockbusters, you may really want to check this out.

I certainly have more checking out to do, if only of those minutes I missed while dozing, which I am genuinely looking forward to enjoying.  One way or another, I intend to get hold of the DVD of Blowing Smoke for myself, either by my friend scrounging a free one for me, or by buying it, for fourteen dollars I think she said it was.  (The download is going to cost ten dollars.)

The general effect of internet distribution like this will be greatly to widen the range of movies that are seriously distributable, and hence seriously makeable.  That has to be good news.  There will be a lot movies that I will like becoming available, an absolute avalanche of movies that I won’t like, and a lot of movies that I like a bit but not really, and certainly not enough to rave about them, but which you might well adore, like Blowing Smoke.

In this connection, see also my recent Samizdata posting about, among other things, a far more amateurish than Blowing Smoke, but still serious and ambitious sound-recording of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I myself have lucked into.  Personally I only listen to Shakespeare sound recordings if I am about to perform in another production of the same play, but that’s just me.  But nobody said you have yourself to adore the products you help to make, or for that matter are helping to sell.

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